Monday, January 31, 2011

Denounce Mubarak!

Barak Obama promised change; hundreds of thousands of stubborn, fed-up Tunisians and Egyptians have delivered.

And I realize the United States is missing a tremendous - no, historic opportunity to raise its clout. To look, for the first time in decades, like it legitimately cares about democracy and self-determination over its own geopolitical dominance. Yet so far Obama and Hillary Clinton have done nothing but offer pathetic words of support for the tyrant Mubarak. Their lack of a strong stance in favor of Egyptian democracy plays down the influence America could have in the white-hot forge of revolution.

As it is, our lack of support makes us look like assholes. Our lack of mass pressure on Obama makes us look like we all support Arabian dictators.

All the government officials are scrambling to keep up with the opposition leaders, to see if its "someone they can work with," musing whether or not their precious Israli peace can be maintained. But the wisest way to ensure a government hospitable to American interests is to declare support for the people's self-determination. Through the revolution, they, as in Tunisia, will struggle until they get a government with which they are satisfied.

Media sources also continue to point out a "lack of leadership." Also bullshit. Every single one of these protesting Egyptians is a leader. Simply because they haven't (yet? or won't?) had the need to create a hierarchy doesn't mean they are weak or cannot democratically control their own economy and lives. Perhaps Egypt and Tunisia serve as a warning to all those who cling to obsoleting notions of "the political party" as the summit of society's functionality.

The people are doing it for themselves. Classical democracy is making a comeback, empowered by technologies and the internets. Do Americans really want to serve a government that stands in the way of that?

UPDATE: It seems the Prime Minister of Turkey knows how to vie for the respect of the new revolutionary generation. Hell, even Iran is trying to get its foot in the door. For shame, America. You fail at counter-balancing your own imperialist boogeyman.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt And Tunisia: This Is How You Make A Revolution

The workers, youth, and the poor of Tunisia and Egypt are doing what average people everywhere else dream of doing: they are pushing back against corrupt and oppressive governments. And they are winning.
The tried and true tactics pioneered by progressive movements through the last two centuries are being used again with devastating effectiveness: mass protests, solidarity among working people, and the general strike. These weapons are the reason why our own corrupt and increasingly oppressive corporate government in Washington fear the progressive Left far more than the reactionary Right. It is because only the Left encourages solidarity amongst workers, all workers, while the extreme Right only makes " revolution" with support from factions in the Establishment.
The Fascists in Italy took over Rome in 1922 after a farcical march. Mussolini and his thugs would have been wiped out in five minutes if one company of Italian soldiers had stood up to them. But the officer corps, the industrialists, and the aristocracy of Italy tacitly approved of Mussolini's coup: they knew Il Duce was going to crack down hard on unions, striking workers, and socialists. They were absolutely delighted with the Blackshirt " revolution".
The Nazis took longer to get into power but once again a Right- wing populist party was granted power with the blessings of conservative politicians, capitalists, and the German officer class. Once in power, the " socialist " trappings of Hitler and his cronies were speedily discarded- Hitler even going so far as to murder his former associates in the Sturmabteilung ( a.k.a. the SA, or " Brownshirts"), partly to eliminate a potential threat to his leadership, but also very much because the SA contained genuine revolutionary elements with roots in working class organizations. Even this small amount of working class solidarity made big business nervous.
Now we come to the modern day and the Tea Party ( I can already hear the howls of outrage: " What! You dare compare the Tea Party to the Nazis?!?!" Hey, if it walks like a fascist, quacks like a fascist, and shows up at political rallies with a rifle slung over its shoulder, your goddam right I'm going to associate it with fascists). Let's be blunt- the Tea Party would have never gotten past a few crackpots meeting in someone's basement if it wasn't for support from the highest levels of the Establishment. FOX News pundits, billionaires, and the Republican Party all threw their support behind this " movement". There is nothing spontaneous or genuine about it, except its white hot anger against what Teabaggers perceive as the Other. The Tea Party, for now, exists at the pleasure of its backers.
This is exactly why a Right- Wing movement cannot be considered revolutionary. To establish a revolution, you have to overturn the class in power and make a wholly new and better way for people to live and think. Our own American Revolution did that, much to the later chagrin of many of its instigators. The idea of every citizen having political liberty and a say in the way the country was run was a startling concept in the 18th century. Similarly the idea that economic liberty, in the form of the democratization of the workplace, remains a bold idea even today. The only truly revolutionary movements of the 21st century that promise that are Progressive ones. And the only Progressive movements that have the vision, organization, and discipline to carry through that promise are Socialist ones.
So, to return to our brave friends in Egypt and Tunisia, the revolutions they are carrying out are not supported by any faction of their ruling classes. It appears these revolts were spontaneous and genuine uprisings of working people, the poor, and students. They are deploying the classic weapons of the street- fighting Left: the protest, the strike, and solidarity. I can never imagine the Tea Party, or a similar Reactionary populist movement doing the same. Instead of reaching for a sign, their first instinct is to reach for a gun. The crazies who do the violence on the behalf of their masters in the Establishment are easily controlled by law enforcement. The Tea Party is nothing more than a madly barking dog- sometimes it bites the hand that feeds it but a quick slap on its nose brings it to heel again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

radical hope, radical change, radical values

Following the crazy shooting now more than a week ago, I was directed to this particular post about a U.S. marine who is warning "those calling for a civil war," with the typical machismo you expect from a member of an "elite" fighting force. While his(?) words are directed, doubtlessly, at the right wing it is worth looking at from a Marxist perspective. In other countries and other times the "left" has made its own calls for "revolution." In places like the Russia of 1917, with starvation and deaths on the front lines of World War I, this sort of call is entirely justified. Perhaps even today in an authoritarian country like Tunisia, a radical left population is justified in kicking out its oppressors, that same government which fires on demonstrators with snipers. Or authorizes the use of lethal force on rock-chucking children. These are situations I am not intimately familiar with and cannot make an accurate comment, except with the caveat that I am getting second- or third-hand news.

The situation in America, however, I can speak to. And while we're pretty miserable for a "developed" nation, and we do some really miserable things to the rest of the world, things have to be a hell of a lot worse before the left here can even consider insurrection. The American right wants to throw a fuss up around taxes and welfare, gays and Mexicans, so that they can go on protecting privilege and wealth. They are talking about a right-wing populist coup. I don't support coups.

Regardless, this "marine's" tone does more than merely rub me the wrong way. It's downright infuriating. This country was founded on the idea that if government abuses its people, the people have a right to replace that government. This marine's attitude is completely contrary to that. In supporting the text of the Constitution, he violates its spirit, the spirit of this country, the infectious spirit of democracy stemming from the Declaration of Independence. This is the kind of guy who would support a coup to keep alive the perceived authority of a single, corrupted document.

The Right often complains that Marxists, and the Left in general, have no values or morals. But the truth is that the more scientific Left recognizes that the world can only be explained materially, and that material things are subject to the forces of entropy - even the United States Constitution. There seems to be some attempt in the media to connect Jared Loughner's rambling nihilism to Marxism. The argument as it exists right now seems to go "Loughner made some political statements. His perspective and the perspectives of his friends seems to indicate he was a nihilist, meaning his 'belief' is in nothingness. Marxism doesn't acknowledge God as the source of value, and it has a lot to do with politics, therefore Marxism must be nihilism. And Loughner must be a Marxist."

But actually Marxist "beliefs" are a lot more numerous than you might think, and flies in opposition to nihilism, and are in fact more concrete than contemporary mainstream "values." It certainly places a value on thoughtful analysis, rather than the knee-jerk reactions that masquerade in our media as "free speech." It values democracy, meaning thorough participation of ALL members in a given institution, not just incremental elections for figureheads who manage your exploitation. It values radical honesty and openness in human relationships and equality, something that would radically transform the nature of loving relationships - whereas mainstream society seems to cherish these abstract "family values." A far cry from any kind of critical look at human relations, "family values" is actually just code for censoring gay/lesbian/transgender/queer peoples, pretending monogamy is sacred, and making an excuse to psychologically torture people by binding them to the capitalist household.

Change is inevitable; that's common sense. Marxism is one of the only philosophies that actually engages change not just as an armchair observer, but as an active and progressive participant. The people of Tunisia have almost spontaneously realized their own agency. Even if not led by Marxists, they have been empowered through the legacy of common resistance. Our anonymous Marine refuses to recognize that when things change for the worse, the people have an obligation to sweep it away and replace it with new, fresh democracy. Loughner failed to see, or failed to find any teacher who could instruct him, that change does not indicate a lack of universal truth, but a higher, more sophisticated universal truth than he could wrap his mind around. Contemporary American values are hollow, obese with empty rhetoric, sweaty and pained at the strains of putting out global fires.

We need to rediscover democracy. We need to re-engage.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Newsflash: Rich People Don't Care About Us Plebes

(Note: This was written before the tragic events in Arizona. Update on that front to come.)

Let them eat cake!

It turns out that the truth most working people have known since the 16th century (at least!) can be scientifically proven. Yep, that's right, Psychological Science just published a study that shows that rich people are less empathetic then their working class counterparts. What does that actually mean? That the upper crust of this society is less able to tell how a person is feeling from looking at them.


Scientists from the study posit that because working class people have to rely on each other, ask each other for help, and generally work together to keep from dying a slow and painful death in the gutter, we've developed the skills to understand and communicate with each other better. Rich people? Well, they can pay someone to do that for them. Seriously. Being rich can make a person less "human" or at least humane.

This study goes to show that it's unlikely a good directed appeal will cause the upper class to be guilted into handing over their stuff (even if it's just something simple like food we're asking for!). The only way us unwashed masses are going to get anywhere is by working together to fight against the system that causes such drastic inequality in the first place: capitalism.

It goes to show that in a society where the majority of us already have to work with each other to survive, the wealthy don't do much other than act like insensitive jerks. But at least they don't understand what they're doing is wrong, right? Right?